Commentary Magazine


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This Year in Democracy

December 10 is as good a date as any to review democracy’s progress in 2007. Michael Barone does just that in today’s New York Sun and finds that “the world looks, safer, friendlier, more hopeful” than it did a year ago.

His tripartite assessment is solely predicated on recent developments in Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela. While I concur with Barone’s overall judgment that 2007 was a good year for the U.S. and its global democratizing influence, I’d offer a few additions and criticisms to his finer points.

He asserts that if the NIE is right then the Iraq invasion is the cause of Iran’s halted nuclear weapons program. I agree wholeheartedly, but I’m skeptical enough of the NIE to leave Iranian matters well off the plus side of the ledger for now.

As for Venezuela, I think the popular rejection of Hugo Chavez’s power grab is a critical evolutionary step in Latin American self determination, but as this must-read in the Wall Street Journal makes clear, Chavez’s “for now” is a most ominous stopgap. Barone’s exclusion of recent news from Russia and Pakistan is conspicuous. Putin’s United Russia party has ratcheted up the tyrannical tendencies that caused the human rights group Freedom House to downgrade Russia’s status from “partly free” to “unfree” in 2006. Musharraf’s asterisked martial law feels more and more like democracy on indefinite hold.

However, I think the turnaround in Iraq is so extraordinary as to outweigh those last two examples. There’s just no way to overemphasize the importance of an emerging consensually governed state in the heart of Mesopotamia. The outgrowth from a democratic Iraq could make next year’s assessment exponentially more impressive.